It seems that Google Voice has finally made something of a shift, become a we-based app rather than one that most smartphone users would have to download and install… it’s a big shift and one that could well be a bee in Apple’s bonnet.
Officially, Apple never rejected Google’s Google Voice app from its infamously strict App Store, instead insisting that it was simply reviewing the app after initially intimating that the app might not see release because it was seen to duplicate a core functionality of the iPhone itself. Of course, given the fact that Apple has had Google Voice under “review” for around six months, it seems that something had to give, and give it most certainly did.
Google has responded in the way that it perhaps best knows how – by moving the entire Google Voice app to the web, an area in which it seems that Google certainly knows its stuff. Now, any Google Voice users who are using Apple’s iPhone can continue to use the service as normal, without any need for the company to release a dedicated app. Indeed, they might even set up a shortcut directly from the phone’s dashboard, ensuring that it behaves more completely like an app than a webpage.
The move will likely be something of a kick in the teeth for the folks at Apple. It’s worthwhile to think back to the time before the vastly successful App Store existed; a time when Apple’s Steve Jobs was quick to point out that most iPhone users didn’t want native apps – they were happy to make do with web-based apps.
Still, it seems that some of Google Voice’s functionality has been impaired by the fact that it no longer has the same kind of direct tie-in with the device. If you’re sending texts via the service then you’ll notice that they’re displayed with a number, rather than the name of the person you’re texting, alongside. They’re all niggling issues, but they do add up to a service that’s slightly less attractive overall.
Of course, for those of us in what we’ve seen referred to as the “civilised world,” there’s still no option to actually use Google Voice, so all of this means considerably less. Moreover, because of the fludge of different cellular carriers we have across Europe, it seems relatively unlikely that we’ll actually see Google Voice launched here anytime soon.
So, the current state-of-play for those of us in Ireland is that we can (if we’re using Android-based devices) download the Google Voice app from the Android Market… then you’re kind of stuck. Similarly, those using an iPhone or Palm’s Pre (or any other HTML5 capable mobile browser) can browse their way over to the web-based version of Google Voice and take a look at it there.